Mark is a retired Navy SEAL and a founder of 6 multi-million dollar businesses, including SEALFIT, NavySEALS.com and Unbeatable Mind. His intense, integrative training programs have transformed thousands of athletes, warriors and business professionals and accelerate their growth toward maximum potential.
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Worst Entrepreneur Moment
- Mark went into biz with his brother-in-law’s. He learned a TON from this experience, and in this episode, he passes his lessons learned on to YOU, Fire Nation!
Small Business Resource
- Success Wizard: Personal Goals Life Coaching and Self Help.
Best Business Book
- SEALFIT: Looking to get in shape & train like a Navy SEAL? Look no further! SEALFIT has online military fitness training and more!
- NavySEALS.com: The Past, Present and Future of Unconventional Warfare.
- Unbeatable Mind: Unbeatable Mind is an online training program that teaches you how to utilize the concepts and practices of warrior development to develop sustained mental toughness.
- Check out the Unbeatable Mind’s site
Mark: Always, John, booya.
John: Yes. Mark is a retired Navy SEAL and a founder of six multi-million dollar businesses including SEALFIT, NavySEALs.com and Unbeatable Mind. His intense, integrated training programs have transformed thousands of athletes, warriors and business professionals to accelerate their growth towards maximum potential. Mark, take a minute, fill in some gaps from that intro and give me a little glimpse into your personal life.
Mark: You bet, John. First of all, thanks very much for having me on the show.
Mark: I always love to chat with folks who are doing great work in the world, and you are. So real quick, I'm from upstate New York, so if any of your East Coast listeners, I'm from a small town in upstate New York. I spent my summers running around the Adirondack Mountains, went to a small liberal arts college up there called Colgate University, graduated in '85, followed the herd down to New York to become a finance guy and spent the first four years of my professional career becoming a certified public accountant and getting my MBA at the Stern School.
Due to a series of fortunate circumstances, I was led away from that into a life of being a warrior. I joined the U.S. Navy in 1989 with a guaranteed bill to go Navy SEAL training as an officer into BUD/S class 170 and graduated as honor-man, the one graduate in that class in 1990, served at SEAL Team 3 for about six years roughly and then SDV Team 1, SEALs Delivery Vehicle Team 1, in Hawaii for a couple years. Then I transitioned into the Reserves and served in a number of different capacities in different Reserves, and that's including SOCPAC. I was Reserve 53-17-1-17, which was [inaudible] [00:01:50], and I retired as a Commander EO-5 in 2011.
Of course as a Reservist, as you know, John, with your military background, I was able to kind of be a part-time warrior, part-time parent and husband as well as an entrepreneur. So that's when I really got into the business world and went through a series, I would say, increasingly successful or decreasingly less unsuccessful businesses to get where I'm at. I look forward to talking about all of these.
John: Absolutely, and it was really fascinating for me to kinda do a little bit of research about you, Mark, and find out just what you've done in this world, which is incredible, and see the kind of similarities between you and my career thus far. I'm from the Northeast as well, Maine. I went to Providence College, which after everybody graduates from there; we also all scurry down to New York City to get into finance. It's just kinda that next step, and so we'll see how much longer that lasts. I'm guessing those days are numbered for future Millennials alike.
Then obviously my military service, and now here we are sitting out in San Diego County, so a lot of cool things kind of happened in both of our lives that have kinda led similar paths. I think what's cool for Fire Nation is when you're looking for mentors, people that you look up to and people that you see that are doing great things right now, find the similarities within them so that when you reach out to them, you can kinda touch upon those. I was able to convince Mark to come on the show because of some of those similarities. That's a huge thing, so use that to your advantage, Fire Nation.
Mark, we are gonna dive into your journey. We're gonna get really deep into that, but first, we are entrepreneurs looking to generate revenue. Not many of my past guests have founded six multi-million dollar businesses, so you are just a treasure trove of information here. Break it down for us today, though. How do you generate revenue this moment?
Mark: Well, this moment I have a couple different businesses. The two that I'm really, really fired about and focusing most of my energy into is our SEALFIT and Unbeatable. SEALFIT is an integrated training program, obviously because of the brand, gearing toward hard. It's a notion that if you work hard, and through a series of different training models, we can unlock accelerated development in performance, and we can help individuals find what we're calling the 20X potential. That is this notion that they're capable of 20X more than they think they are at any one time.
I started the business back in '07 initially with the idea of training Navy SEAL candidates, and we were really successful there, I mean our Navy SEAL trainees. I would actually expand that to any SOF candidate or, Special Ops candidate, that comes to train with us, and that's not just U.S., but other non-aligned foreign governments. We have a 90 percent success rate getting them through their training program if they follow our methods and train with us.
Mark: That's pretty extraordinary considering we have an 85 or higher percent fail rate for especially the SEALs. Very critically, though, I learned that other individuals, professionals, entrepreneurs, businesspeople, soccer moms, were interested in the same type of training and without watering it down. So I opened it up to the general population, and now I would say maybe 90 percent of our clientele are folks who just are really interested in performing at their peak and unlocking that potential in themselves so they can be better people and better businesspeople, better family members, etc.
So we earn money through primarily events with that business. We run a 50-hour nonstop training event called Kokoro Camp, and that is based upon the Navy SEAL Hell Week. It's designed to develop mental toughness and resiliency in the trainees and also team like a really intimate team experience, which I know you experienced as a Marine, but most businesspeople don't get to experience that, so they leave a lot of potential on the table. Then we have academies where people come and live in and train with us at our headquarters in Encinitas for three days, five days or even 21 days at a time. That's a pretty extraordinary experience, like a warrior monk type experience.
Then we're certifying coaches in getting out into the world, and we're doing basic trainings over vacation, which are two-day learn the model type trainings as well as these programs we call 20X, which are 12-hour intense, crucible events that would be a precursor to that 50 hours. So we're doing maybe five or ten events a month right now, and we're working on scaling that up and really cranking. We've got a reality TV show that we're producing to kind of really get broader exposure for the SEALFIT kinda model.
With Unbeatable Mind, it's more of the philosophy, similar training concepts, integrated training, developing yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, intuition and spiritually, but the Unbeatable Mind method is not as hard physically. It really approaches more from the mental, emotional and spiritual side of the spectrum, and so I have a life-coaching program, the Unbeatable Mind Academy, which is an online program. I've had maybe 5,000 people who've gone through that. It's a 12-month program. It's not a quick fix. It's not an instant gratification type program.
It really is still based upon the same principles that you gotta do the work to master yourself so that you can serve others and humanity. It does require output; you know what I mean? It's not easy. It's not meant to be easy, but once you get into it and you learn the lifestyle and you learn the methods and you discipline yourself, then it becomes incredibly, incredibly rewarding. So that program I'm very, very excited about because that's spinning off into all sorts of cool opportunities.
I've got a self-published book there that's become a bestseller, and I have another book that kinda came out of that called The Way of the SEAL, which was a Wall Street Journal bestseller. I'm working with Rodale, which is a big company that they run Men's Health and Runner's World, and I think they have a massive following kind of in the sports world.
We're working on a plan to develop a series of niche books like I'm doing a Mind for CrossFitters, and I'm gonna do a Mind for Runners and that type of thing, so a lot of potential there, and it's gonna be mostly classic digital marketing, digital courses, digital products, of course books and media and speaking engagements are how I earn money with that program.
John: So, Mark, I don't wanna get too deep in the weeds here because we really want to get to your story, but just take one quick minute here. What's the main thing that you would point to as the reason that 80 to 90 percent of your trainees succeeded after being trained by you where 85 percent of people who didn't go through your training actually fail? What's that one thing?
Mark: It's difficult to answer because it's different for everybody. What I would say is what we're training people to do is to unlock reservoirs of strength that they didn't know that they had. For some, that's a mental level of strength. For many others, it's an emotional strength, and for even others, it's a spiritual strength. So it really depends upon where the trainees are at when they come into the training, what their level of preparation and what their development as a human being has been up to that point in life.
I would say that the nature of the training is to integrate the physical, the mental and the emotional, the intuition and the spiritual. We have training methods and practices for all of those, and when you begin to train at that level where you're doing those things in an integrated fashion, then it unlocks that potential. You end up uncovering and shoring up your weaknesses very quickly, and your strength accelerates, and you become more balanced. When that happens, you become more confident, and also along the way we give you a few practical skills and tips and techniques and mental models for how to succeed in those very demanding environments.
John: Yeah, and if I had to guess, I would say that you or your trainees specifically leave that training believing in themselves, believing that they can do that, and that is 75 to 80 percent of the battle, I can tell you right now, Fire Nation, going through the training. So no matter what it is you're going to be going through, whether it's physical, emotional, mental, whatever it is, believe. You have to believe, and you have to set up the things around you, the people around you, that are going to lead you to believe. Now, Mark, you've had some tough times. You've alluded to them, but take us to one moment, what you would consider your worst entrepreneurial moment, and tell us that story.
Mark: All right, so yeah, that's a great question, John. My worst entrepreneurial moment was actually my first business. I started it right out of active duty when I left active duty in mid-1996. I started the Coronado Brewing Company, which is a microbrewery restaurant in Coronado, California, which is the home of the SEALs. It was a phenomenal experience in the lessons that I learned, but extremely painful just from the emotional enmeshment because my partners were my brothers-in-law, so kinda anytime you're in business with family, stand by for some sort of lesson, right. It can be very challenging, especially if the family members don't immediately share your vision or your ethos.
So I would say kinda those two things were the main flaw as I had a vision for the business that was one thing, and because these were family members, I didn't really synch up with them the way I would with, let's say, my SEAL team or I do now in business. Secondarily, because they were family members, I gave them a pass on a lot of things that I would never give other partners a pass on, and those things were character issues that became the major issue once we're a couple years into the business.
The money was flowing, and all of a sudden their horns came out, and it just became a locked battle, a control battle and a battle for vision of the future and a battle on my part to protect the shareholders. It was two and a half years of just constant battling, lawyers, guns and money. Well, not really guns, but I considered it a couple times. I'm just kidding. People would come to me and like, "Why don't you just go get your SEAL team together and take these guys out?" I'm like, "No, that's not how I'm gonna do business," you know what I mean?
John: So, Mark, the reality is this. Fire Nation, we are entrepreneurs. We are looking to start businesses left and right, and so many times, that happens with friends from college, from high school, with family members. Whatever that might be, we are going down that road. Guess what, sometimes it does work out, but oftentimes it doesn't as well. So take a step back here. Kinda share with us Fire Nation people who are going down that road, who are down that road, who are thinking about it, if you could go back, what would you have done differently? What are lessons that you learned that you wanna pass on to our listeners in this area?
Mark: So yeah, I think there were some great lessons from that first experience, and that's key, though. We have this saying in the SEAL teams that failure's not an option. The only thing you can fail on is not learning a lesson, and I think when I look back, this painful experience with the Coronado Brewing Company was some of the richest learning that I've had.
One of the primary lessons that I try never to violate to this day is to make sure that you share a common vision with those other founders/entrepreneurs that you're working with because as soon as your visions start to veer off in different directions, and if you both have equity and skin in the game, then that's when you're gonna have some real issues. So, do the time upfront to get clear about what your vision for victory is for the business.
The other thing I already alluded to is make sure you're in bed with the right partners, the right players, that they're gonna have your back when you're struggling, and you're gonna have their back when they're struggling. Make sure that they're gonna live up to their agreements. One of the things that happened in this business was that we all agreed to put the same amount of capital in. I put mine in, and my partners didn't put a penny in.
John: Tss, ouch.
Mark: Ultimately, by the time I figured out they weren't gonna pony up, I had to go out and raise the extra money and get it done, but because it was family, we didn't take any action. There wasn't any recourse, so they just kinda merrily kept charging along as full equity partners even though they never put their capital in. It was a strange situation, and I didn't really have the resources or the courage to do anything about it because again, it was family. Well, of course that came back to haunt me, and we had do deal with it later on.
It's two big lessons. There's make sure you share a common vision and that you have a character ethos, a trustworthiness and a level of trust that people that you're in business with are gonna meet their commitments, they're gonna put the same amount of energy in that you are, that you're gonna row in the same direction because things fall apart really quickly when you feel like a teammate who's got an equal equity stake as you and is gonna share in the upside as you isn't working nearly as hard as you are contributing. I think a lot of partnerships or deals start to fall apart when you don't have a shared sense of equal contribution, and everyone's sharing the risk and pulling in the same direction.
John: Looking back at that and then seeing where you are today, you've obviously grown as an entrepreneur, but what would you say your biggest remaining weakness as an entrepreneur is?
Mark: That's a great question. I would say it's patience. I've got about 50 different projects that I'd love to dive into today, and in the past I would start things before my team was ready to really take them on or before I had the real resources to do it well or to do it right. So, one of the key things as an entrepreneur is to understand when to launch a new project. Timing is incredibly important.
Beyond character, timing is probably the next most important thing, so to be more patient. One of my weaknesses, I guess, would be that I still need to develop patience and to make sure that I find the right time and the right circumstances to launch an initiative rather than just barreling head on just because I think it's a great idea.
John: Maybe it's the military thing in me. Just last night, Kate asked me. She said, "John, what's your biggest pet peeve?" I said, "Waiting in lines." I hate waiting in lines. I won't even go to the post office if there's even a chance there's gonna be a line there, so I just don't go. I just have them come pick my stuff up. That, to me, is huge, so patience. Fire Nation, we all have these flaws and weaknesses, and patience is a virtue. There's a reason why that's a quote.
Mark: That’s right.
John: Mark, what is your biggest strength?
Mark: I think now my biggest strength really is that I'm radically clear about why I do everything I do. Incidentally, this is one of the key things that I teach in my Unbeatable Mind and my SEALFIT programs is how do you develop the control over your mind to know precisely what you should be doing at any one moment, right. So there's a level of finesse and grace and mental development that goes into that. I see a lot of people kind of flailing around in the business world, and there's a lot of advice out there.
I think that it's important to learn from people, podcasts like this and from mentors, but then to develop kinda the stillness and the mental control and the mental models and to develop your mind and your emotional self to the extent that you know why you're doing what you're doing, and you know what to do when the going gets really tough and you get to those moments of fear or almost quit like you wanna throw in the towel and to know how to get through those moments.
So because of my own training and the training I've done with the SEALs, several thousand trainees and a lot of them being Navy SEALs who've gone on to succeed, I've also developed myself the ability to be pretty clear about where to go and what to do and what's next and to always answer that question, "Why am I doing this?" and "What should I be doing now?" It sounds kinda trite, but that's a pretty high-level skill.
Mark: I think if you can master that, you can pretty much accomplish anything you want in life.
John: Yeah, I wanna add to what you were saying about listening to the right podcast, reading the right books and all that stuff with the mentors because it's so important, Fire Nation, but at the same time, you have to develop your own filter, what's right for you.
John: We all have this fire hose of just information that's coming at us.
John: Mark, you could be going in a thousand directions at once, but no, you need to be able to filter what's coming in through that fire hose and say hey, what feels right for me, and what is actually applicable to me?
John: On that note, you developed some great things, Mark, awesome, awesome things. We've talked about them in the intro and a little bit afterwards, but what's the one thing that has you most fired up today?
Mark: It's the potential I see with my Unbeatable Mind philosophy. I've had some unreal, almost surreal feedback from folks who've been involved in my online training program and even folks who just read my book.
It seems to have the potential to really unlock new areas of thinking and being for a lot of people, and because I started at the very hard end of the spectrum with SEALFIT and applying this philosophy with special warfare, Special Operators, I think that I can impact a lot more people by expanding and maybe softening it and bringing it more into the general public realm, and so that's what I'm excited about and trying to figure out how do I bring the Unbeatable Mind philosophy into a more mainstream approach and impact even more people.
That includes business professionals and teens, so I'm working on an initiative to develop an Unbeatable Mind program for teens and really help strengthen, help develop mental toughness and resiliency and clear thinking patterns among people just entering the workforce and those individuals who are gonna have the biggest impact on this planet and on this world in the future, so that's what I'm most excited about really is that.
Probably in the next five or ten years, I'll be moving away from SEALFIT. I'm trying to kinda set it up, not moving away entirely because I just love the program, but I'm trying to set it up with the coaching and the certification to really kind of run a little bit without my physical presence every day so I can focus on Unbeatable Mind.
John: Have an unbeatable mind, Fire Nation, and we have an unbeatable lightning round coming up, but before we do, let's take a minute to thank our sponsors. Mark, are you prepared for the lightning rounds?
Mark: Booya, bring it.
John: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Mark: Well, I think what was holding me back from becoming an entrepreneur was just it was a lack of clarity about whether I was ready, and because I was still in the military in the SEALs, and I loved being a SEAL, but I had this kinda sense that being an entrepreneur was in my future, and it wasn't until I boldly took the leap across the line did I really succeed as an entrepreneur.
John: What is the best advice you've ever received?
Mark: Well, I think the best advice I ever received was from an old guy named Napoleon Hill, who told me that what I can conceive in my mind, I can achieve in the real world. So I really believed him when he wrote that in 1929 in Think and Grow Rich. I wasn't around then, but I read it and read the book about 20 times, and it's probably one of the most profound mentors who I never met.
John: Absolutely an amazing book. It's one of the first books that we point to, Fire Nation. I just love the detail that he puts into whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.
John: What's a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Mark: Personal habit that contributes to my success is a very powerful morning routine, which I call winning in my mind. It sets me up for success every day, and my belief is that today is all we have, right. With that mindset that today is all we have, yesterday's gone and tomorrow hasn't happened yet, then I can stay really present.
But it also means that I can be very, very focused on what I can accomplish today, what I can realistically accomplish today because it's really the only opportunity I have, meaning if at the end of the day, I'm not satisfied with what I've accomplished, and that's in all areas of my life, spending quality time with my family, taking care of my body and mind and spirit, moving the dial forward toward my goals, which are in alignment with my vision, at the end of the day if I'm not happy with that, then I've kinda wasted that day because it truly is the only opportunity that I have to succeed, and then there's tomorrow of course, assuming I wake up.
So every morning, I have a routine where I get up, and I check in with my ethos. I clarify my purpose for the day and what actions I'm gonna take to really drive the dial, drive the momentum forward. I look at how I intend to make myself better and what I intend to learn today. The process includes some physical movement and some meditation, some breathing exercises and then this whole what I call ethos alignment. I tell you what, I've been doing it now for about ten years, and it's been extraordinary. It's like life before this routine and life after. It's a powerful, powerful routine.
John: Yeah, one of the most popular posts that I've done in recent memory is at EOFire.com/daily where I just share my daily routine, and it's just a morning routine. It's so important.
John: It's critical to win the day right at the beginning of the day. You win the morning; you win the day. I love that quote.
John: Now, Mark, do you have an Internet resource like Evernote that you can share with our listeners?
Mark: Yeah, everything that we just talked about in your morning routine can be captured in an app on your iPhone, and I use Success Wizard. It's a very well-done app that allows you to track your long-term goals, short-term goals, get into specific actions you're gonna take today to move the dial, it's got a notepad that you can jot down important thoughts and ideas and questions and concerns, and it's got a journal.
It's cool because I used to be a big journal nut. My wife just cracks up because I'd be always buying the latest journal, you know what I mean. I finally got away from that and started to use the iPhone, and it's just extraordinary the amount of productivity alignment and acceleration you can gain from that tool if you use it properly, so Success Wizard is probably my No. 1 bet right now.
John: If you could recommend just one book for our listeners, what would it be and why?
Mark: Unbeatable Mind, not to plug my own book, but it is extraordinary because it's unique in introducing this notion of integrated training and taking responsibility for training yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, intuitionally and spiritually to unlock your own growth to get what I call the fifth plateau of consciousness. I think that's really interesting, and I would point to one of my mentors, Ken Wilber, and his integral theories that had a profound impact on me. Probably the book to read there that was his kinda summation of his philosophy is A Theory of Everything, just a fantastic read.
John: Well, Fire Nation, I know you love audio, so I teamed up with Audible, and if you haven't already, you can get an amazing audiobook for free at EOFireBook.com. Now, Mark, let's end on fire, brother, with you sharing a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we'll say goodbye.
Mark: If you wanna be inspired and see some really cool things, go to SEALFIT.com, S-E-A-L-F-I-T.com, and we have some fantastic videos there about our training, and I have a weekly blog and a weekly podcast. They're all posted there for free, and you can go and just start absorbing my philosophy and some of the training methods for developing mental toughness and resiliency and integrated nature, integrated consciousness. So that's probably the best way to get me.
My books are Unbeatable Mind. That's available at Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com and audio, e-book or physical form, and then The Way of the SEAL also available at all the stores, and then 8 Weeks to SEALFIT is my physical training program that was a New York Times bestseller. That is really about kind of the physical and mental training of SEALFIT. So those are great ways to kinda learn more about the training and the methods and about me as well.
John: And what's just a parting piece of guidance?
Mark: Well, a parting piece of guidance is for you folks who are getting into business is don't stop working on yourself. There's the old saying that you gotta work on the business and work in the business, and I say the same thing about yourself. You are the energy behind your business. You're the energy behind your deal or whatever gig you're working on. If you stop working on yourself, then you're not gonna have the energy to give to your teammates and to the organization, so you gotta look at this from what I call three spheres.
You got you, you got your team and then you got your organization, which is the systems, structures, rules, the place, the whatever, the products and services, and you need to pay attention to all three. They all need your energy, and they all need to be kept healthy, and they all need to draw strength from each other, but it starts with you, and so you should be training yourself every day and making yourself better every day and committing yourself to treat your body and mind very, very well through proper nutrition, through proper sleep and through proper training.
Only then can you really bring it to your team and to your organization, so ultimately, what I say is you gotta master yourself so that you can serve others. You don't start by serving others without mastering yourself because ultimately you won't have the energy, you won't have the credibility, and you will fail.
John: Fire Nation, you're the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and you've been hanging out with M.D. and J.L.D. today, so keep up the heat, and head over to EOFire.com. Just type Mark in the search bar. His show notes page will pop right up with everything that we've been talking about today. Mark, thank you for –
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